Janie and Jack
November 25, 2019
If there’s any question about the power of social media, let the flourishing partnership of Eva Chen and Derek Desierto serve as exhibit a.
Once a follower of his personal account, NY Times best-selling author, editor, designer, and head of Fashion Partnerships at Instagram, Eva Chen was so impressed with award winning illustrator Derek Desierto’s sketch of her, she slid into his DM’s with a personal request.
“I asked him if he’d ever worked on a children’s book together, he said he hadn’t so I asked if he’d ever want to work together. He literally asked me if he was being punked!”
The rest, as they say, is history. The pair have written and illustrated four children’s books, the Juno Valentine series, and recently completed the whimsical, “fashion fairytale” Juno Valentine children’s collection with Janie and Jack. Here are a few fun things they shared from their chat onstage with Janie and Jack SVP and General Manager, Shelly Walsh.
Eva on Becoming a Best-Selling Author
“I didn’t know it at the time, but it’s actually really hard to break into the (NY Times) bestsellers list. It’s run almost entirely by franchises, like Pete the Cat and The Day the Crayons Quit, that have been on the list for seven years in a row. So breaking into that list is something I’m really proud of, but I’m also still processing it.”
Eva on Why You Should Never Toss Out Your Clothes
“My mom moved to the US in 1975 from Taiwan, and had this iconic 1980’s style; side-parted hair with a swoop in the front, a bob, Chanel lipstick, and wore these amazing pantsuits and trousers, suiting that I’m really feeling right now. My dad recently sent me all these photos of her, and I keep asking her ‘where’s this coat? Where’s that coat?’ She would tell me “oh, that was an original Max Mara Teddy Coat. I actually think I donated it!” I would scream “Mommm!!!” I think that’s why I’m such a hoarder! The moral of the story is, don’t throw anything out, ever!”
Derek on Finding Inspiration Through Children
“Ren (Eva’s Daughter) and Mateo, my oldest nephew, are quite ‘spirited’ and they’re very funny, and I think Juno (the book’s main character), is too. In my head Juno’s a lot of fun and I do think all the children in my life are a bit of Juno and a little bit of Finn. But, I’m very happy to be just an uncle and be able to leave anytime I want!”
Eva on the Magic of the Janie and Jack Collaboration
“The Janie and Jack team was really able to bring everything to life, for instance, I was able to say ‘I want a dress that is like a rainbow cupcake’ and they made it happen. I wanted Juno Valentine to have a lot of personality and the ability to try on different personas. I think it’s so important for young children to know they’re not born perfect, they’re not born knowing who they are, and they do need to try on a lot of different personas and personalities. That’s the message of the book, but it’s amazing now that the kids can quite literally step into the shoes of Juno. From the beginning, I thought how amazing it would be to be to make just one sparkly shoe. In the first conversation with Janie and Jack, I mentioned this idea and Shelly told me ‘think big!’, and it worked! This vision was brought to life so beautifully.”
Eva on The Juggle of Being A Working Mom
“I took for granted how much free time I had before I had kids. As a working mom I see my kids for three hours in the morning and three hours in the evening. Having kids has changed my outlook and made me prioritize more ruthlessly against things I truly enjoy. I was starting to do that naturally with age and self-confidence, but kids really force it. It puts it in clear black and white perspective. I know there’s going to come a time where my kids are embarrassed by me and hate me, and think I’m a ‘boomer!’ so I’m really trying to maximize all this joy when they are excited to see me.”
Derek on The Horror of Haunted Hotels
“Eva and I stayed at a haunted hotel called ‘The Driskill’ in Austin, Texas together, and it was probably the most fun experience we’ve ever had. The hotel is known to be haunted, which we didn’t know until we checked in and there was a pamphlet that described all the deaths that had happened there. When I was a kid I used to sleep surrounded by Christ figurines to protect me from ghosts. It was a really scary hotel, and even though it was so fun, I’ll never do it again!”
Eva on Being Authentic on Instagram
“I’ve been at Instagram four and a half years. Before that I was at Lucky Magazine, and became known as the editor that was really into social media. I’d be backstage at fashion shows and people would ask me if they should put a filter on their photo, and I developed this reputation of knowing things about social media. Instagram is something that brings millions of people around the world together, Derek and I met through Instagram, we wouldn’t have this book if it were not for Instagram. When I’ve had the toughest moments in parenting, for instance my son who didn’t sleep for the first eleven months of his life, I turned to Instagram for advice and there was this outpouring of support. I think it’s so important that people on Instagram are themselves and share the challenges they’re going through and not just use it as a space for highlights.”
Eva’s Favorite Instagram Accounts
“@oprah, @donte.colley for his motivational dance memes that are fun, positive and bring a smile to my face, and @commentsbycelebs for celebrity gossip, and also a way to find out who’s dating who.”
Eva on the Best Decade of her Life
“I feel like the decade of the 20’s really needs some branding work. The teens have been branded as a tough decade with tons of emotions, where you’re figuring things out, but I actually feel like the 20’s are worse than the teens. If you’re in your 20’s, be patient with yourself and continue all of your side passions and hobbies. When I look back on my 20’s, I don’t think I was fully confident. Things click for people at different points in their life. For me, I feel like it really happened in my 30’s. 35 to 40 is really the best, everyone should look forward to turning 35.”
Eva on Entering the Tech World
“The biggest adjustment from fashion to tech has been realizing how flat an organization like Facebook and Instagram is. You walk into a conference room and think ‘oh, there’s the intern!’ but then quickly realize, it’s not the intern, it’s the person who’s creating a new feature by coding it. The magazine world is very hierarchical, and everything goes through the top. Instagram and Facebook is much more collaborative. It’s very surreal to walk around and see thousands of people using something you work on. It’s really gratifying to work somewhere like that.”
Derek on SF vs. Vancouver Fashion
“It’s actually very similar because the climate is similar. We’re both outdoorsy and stylish, and fashion is influenced by our lives. That’s what I appreciate a lot about San Francisco, that it’s informed by nature. I’m really excited to go to Hill City after this!”
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